Emery ready to step up for Highlanders
Jason Emery has played only a small part in the Highlanders’ campaign so far but his versatility will be important as they prepare for three Super Rugby matches in South Africa and Australia.
The Highlanders play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday morning, the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the following weekend and then the Force in Perth before they return home to face the Chiefs in Invercargill on May 30.
Emery has played in all 10 matches, but has started only two as he has been unable to break the established midfield combination of Malakai Fekitoa and Shaun Treeby.
Remarkably, Emery, just 21, is in his third season with the Highlanders and his aim is to be ready for when the chances do come.
“I’ve been pleased with my form off the bench but I haven’t done enough to displace the regular midfielders when I’ve started,” was Emery’s frank assessment.
“I enjoy playing 12, you get a lot more ball, and there are some great players outside. You just try to feed them the ball and hope they do the rest.
“Malakai has No.13 sewn up, Shaun Treeby has been here five years and Richard Buckman has also played well but we try to feed off each other and make sure our wings (Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo) get some decent chances.”
Emery has been much more physical in defence this season after a “kick up the butt” from coach Jamie Joseph.
“It’s also helped that I haven’t had any shoulder injuries, which have troubled me in the past two years.
“I think I’m more mature now. I’m more comfortable around the boys and that helps me to play better. I used to be the youngster but now I’m trying to help some of the new guys who have come into the squad.”
The Lions have been vastly improved this year with six wins and five losses, and will be formidable at Ellis Park.
“They are one of the form South African teams, a really sticky team to play so we will have to work hard to acclimatise when we get over there,” Joseph said.